What is Souvlakia?

Flatbread, which is often used to make souvlakia.

Souvlakia, also known as “souvlaki”, is one of the most important dishes in Greek street cuisine. Souvlakia consists of meat grilled on a skewer and can be served with pita bread, tomato, onion and tzatziki. Souvlakia are the Greek counterparts to Turkish shish-kebabs.

In the Greek language, souvlakia literally means “small skewer”. Souvlaki dates back to Ancient Greece, where a dish called “kandaulos” was served, made with grilled meat, cheese and dill wrapped in pita bread. During the Byzantine period, there are records of vendors selling souvlakia as street food in Constantinople, making it a classic form of fast food. Today, it is served in restaurants across Greece and in Greek restaurants across the world.

A pinch of paprika is often used to season souvlakia meat.

The main component of Souvlaki is the meat pies, with different recipes with different meats. Pitta-souvlaki includes pork, pitta-kebab contains lamb, and pitta-kotopoulo contains chicken. Some restaurants and food stalls even use seafood in souvlaki recipes or offer vegetarian versions of the classic dish.

The key to preparing souvlakia meat is the marinade. Some recipes include red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice. Herbs, usually Greek oregano and thyme, are added to the liquid components. Souvlaki meat is marinated in this mixture for a few hours, resulting in a tasty meat. Some recipes recommend that the meat be marinated for longer than 24 hours.

Oregano is one of the necessary seasonings for a souvlaki marinade.

After sticking the pieces of meat in wood or metal, the souvlakia is grilled over high heat, which caramelizes the outside. Cooks should watch the meat carefully as it should still be juicy inside. Cooking souvlaki over high heat can dry out the meat on the skewer. After grilling the meat, cooks can season it with salt, pepper and a pinch of paprika.

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Souvlakia is similar to Turkish-style shish-kebabs.

Technically, “souvlaki” just refers to skewered meat, which is typically served on skewers. Foreign variations of kebab and souvlaki recipes alternate meat with different types of vegetables, such as peppers, mushrooms or onions. Traditionally, souvlakia are served wrapped in a round of flatbread. Some cooks serve fresh onions, tomatoes and parsley with the meat souvlaki. The dish can be served with a thick helping of tzatziki, a sauce made from Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and sometimes dill or mint.

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